Heavy rain serves to pinpoint risk of flooding

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Column 24 Nov 16
In recent years, the South West has been hit with severe floods and this week’s heavy rain and stubbornly high water levels underline the real risk that homes and businesses in Wiltshire face, especially from flash flooding.

In our area, the River Avon can cause major problems. Bradford on Avon is often the most at risk but Melksham, Corsham and Chippenham, as well as our villages, all have difficulties with the deluge.

Wiltshire Council has invested millions of pounds in improving flood defences and in clearing drains and culverts as part of its excellent local flood risk management strategy; significantly more than in many other counties.

In 2014, I wrote to the Government’s Flooding Minister and was pleased that the Government reacted by awarding £282,000 for emergency repairs. I continue to push for more investment in local services such as flood defences, which are needed to protect local residents and businesses.

This week there have been very high river levels with a number of rural roads closed or impassable, and significant disruption to our trains but thankfully, so far, the defences are working well and homes and businesses remain dry.

The Environment Agency staff are working with the Local Resilience Forum, particularly in Bradford on Avon, and have set up the temporary flood defences. They are monitoring the situation closely but the ability to predict flooding is not an exact science.

It has, however, improved enormously since the setting up of the Flood Forecasting Centre, which brings together the Met Office and the Environment Agency. My huge thanks to Wiltshire Fire Brigade for supporting the teams and to the Bradford on Avon Community Emergency Volunteers for helping inform local residents and keeping an eye on the defences and water levels.

In many places in our towns, villages and farms, it wouldn’t take much for a flood risk to become a damaging flood. A blocked drain, fallen tree or a collapsed wall blocking a stream could make an otherwise manageable situation deteriorate quickly.

I would urge everyone to support and engage with their parish council’s community flood plan and if you parish does not have one then why not contact your local Area Board to see about putting one in place.

We all know how devastating a flood can be; not only as the waters rise but afterwards too, as people come to terms with the loss of property and struggle to find affordable insurance for homes. That is why the Government has been working more closely with insurers, delivering a new way of offering flood cover for homeowners through a not-for-profit scheme called Flood Re, which helps those households who live in a flood risk area find affordable home insurance.

I urge all those who think they may be at risk to watch streams and brooks closely. Please let me know if you have any specific concerns regarding flooding or blocked drains which may cause a problem near you on michelle.donelan.mp@parliament.uk and I can pass these concerns immediately on to the council.